HOA takes issue with homeowner's landscaping

Article and Video Courtesy of FOX 35 NEWS, Orlando

By Holly Bristow

Published October 21, 2010

 Watch VIDEO

TAVARES, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - A battle is brewing between a homeowner in Tavares and her homeowners association, and it's all over landscaping.

"As far as I can tell, this is a Loblolly pine. It's been here 60 to 70 years," said Mo O'Connor.

Since the moment she bought her home 7 years ago on Nassau Circle in the Lake Frances Estates subdivision, that big old pine tree has shaded her yard. Mo says that's made it difficult for grass and everything else to grow.

So, she did some research and hired company to to make her lawn Florida-friendly. That means she ripped up most of the grass and replaced it with drought-resistant plants, most of which are native to Florida and can grow without a lot of sunlight.

"I started with the front...it caused quite a harangue.

But I kept going. There's nothing in the covenants that says I can't have this kind of yard," said Mo O'Connor.

Since then, Mo says she's been getting letter after letter from HOA and their attorney. Paperwork shows they've cited her for having dead limbs in her yard and too much undergrowth. She says one of her neighbors has gone so far as to throwing table scraps in her yard every few days.

"Chicken, lima beans, half-eaten decorated cakes," Mo says are just a few of the leftovers left on her lawn overnight.

According to Florida statute, home owners association cannot prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida friendly landscape.

Mike Africano is a landscape specialist who has helped Mo achieve her Florida Friendly landscaping. "The law says she can have this. If she wanted, it could look a lot worse, if that's what you think this is worse," said Africano.

Mo says she plans on keeping her lawn just the way it is and adding some new plants every now and then. "Every time they send me a letter I send them another letter to them explaining why I'm not in violation. They'll ignore it for about four months then send me another letter," said Mo O'Connor.

FOX 35 asked the HOA president, Bill Herring what was wrong with O'Connor's landscaping. "Look at all the dead stuff, dead vines dead limbs in the trees," said Bill Herring. "We didn't find any of that," said FOX 35 Reporter Holly Bristow. "Well you ain't looking very well," said Herring who then said to contact the HOA attorney.

The HOA's attorney has not yet returned our call. According to Mo O'Connor, the HOA attorney wants to go to formal mediation with her. She says she's already done informal mediation with the HOA . Mo O'Connor says since state statute protects her Florida friendly law, she's not changing it.